Gray-Christopher “Chris” Chapman Branch, age 67, passed away on May 7, 2022,
after more than a year of battling cancer. Through Chris’s fight with Cancer, he upheld the most admirable strength as this disease captured him. Throughout his last year, four months and seven days, Chris smiled, worked as the Portland Public Works Director, loved his family and friends, fulfilled his passion as a swim official and consumed his free time camping with his wife in their fifth wheel over weekends and even on some weekdays.
Chris was born in Lewiston, Maine, in February of 1955 and was embraced by his father Dr. Charles Franklin Branch and his mother- Mary Branch. Chris graduated from Edward Little high school, where he then continued his education at Tufts University and earned his Bachelor of Civil Engineering in 1978. He began his career in 1978 working for the City of Lewiston as a construction inspector, advancing to the position of water, and sewer operations manager. In 1983, Christopher became a Certified Professional Engineer and began his term working as the “City of Lewiston City Engineer.” Just after two years, in 1985, he became the “City of Lewiston Public Works and Services Director.” In 2004, he left the City of Lewiston and joined the engineering firm “Sebago Technics” fulfilling the role of senior project manager. In June 2016, he was hired as the “City of Portland Public Works Director.” He was recognized on various occasions for his excellence and precision throughout his career. In 2021, he was the recipient of the Municipal Leadership award by the City of Portland.
Chris served many roles outside of his professional career as an engineer, town planning boards, zoning boards and most recognizable, an influential part of Maine Swimming. Chris was not only a coach from a very young age, but he served as a swim official and referee, he led, and organized state swim meets. He volunteered much of his time to the swimming community in Maine. Chris coached many swimmers from 1977 through 2001 and officiated more than 1000 swim meets. He began coaching teams at the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA, as well as Kennebec Valley YMCA, where his coaching led many swimmers to a national level. Chris became a member of the Maine Swim Officials’ Association in 1977, he officiated high school swim meets until February 2022, and he served as a High School Swim and Dive State Meet Referee for more than 20 years. He also served as a Maine Principals Association Swim and Dive State Meet Director for more than 15 years. In 2009 the MPA Class A High School State Swim and Dive Meets were dedicated to Chris for his important contributions to swimming and diving and their appreciation of his long and dedicated service to the Youth of Maine. In 2019, Chris was awarded the MPA Larry LaBrie Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Interscholastic Division. Additionally, Chris was also a NCAA Collegiate Swim and Dive official and officiated hundreds of dual meets and NESCAC Championship. He was a registered USA Swimming Coach and official for more than 20 years, he acted as USA Swimming Maine Meet director for eight years and was the USA Maine Swimming General chairman for four years. Chris also served as the President of the Maine Swimming Officials Association for more than 10 years and was a member of the Central Maine Swim Officials Chapter.
Chris was survived by his brother Nicholas Branch, his wife Patricia Branch, his oldest son Thomas Branch, daughter Amanda “Branch” Kry and husband David Kry, daughter Hannah Branch, husband Joseph Page, and their son [grandson] Kenneth Christopher Page, brother-in-law William Leroy, niece Jami LeRoy, nephew Christopher LeRoy, his wife Ashley LeRoy, and their son Dexter LeRoy. Chris was also survived by his mother-in-law Helen Blumenstock and Helen’s children; Michelle Belyea, her husband James Temple, their children Sarah and Lucas, Helen’s son David Belyea and wife Audrey Belyea his son Christopher and daughter Courtney, Daniel Belyea and his husband Gregory Sereyko, Helen’s daughter Renee St. Peter, her husband John St. Peter, their children; Denise St. Peter and her husband Robert Ostrowski-their children, Claire & Henry, their daughter Erin St. Peter and their son Jacob St. Peter and his wife Lindsey St. Peter. He has left behind many cousins, extended family, and close friends. Chris is also survived by his loving wife of 39 years, Laura “Blumenstock” Branch, their 39th anniversary a mere seven days before his passing.
Christopher Branch upheld an admirable life, he was a loving father, husband and most proudly a loving grandfather, as well a mentor, coach, and friend to many. His strength, honor, humbleness- his care, grace, and compassion as he fought this disease tirelessly for 492 days- will be a staple in his memory.
Family and Friends are invited to a time of visitation from 5 to 8PM on Friday, May 20, 2022 at A.T. Hutchins Funeral Home in Portland. Per the family’s request masks are required. A graveside service will take place at 1:00 PM on Saturday, May 21, 2022, in Evergreen Cemetery in Portland. A celebration of life will follow at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in the Casco Room from 2 to 6PM.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Chris Branch Swim scholarship in coordination with the Maine Principal Association. Please make checks payable to Maine Swim officials Association, 15 Sandy Street, Lewiston, ME 04024